Being Involved in a Car Accident, Building a Montessori, Getting Proposed to, and Other Year-End Highlights

January 18, 2017

Looking after Laces and Tiaras proved to be challenging when we got into a car accident at the beginning of 2016. We were on our way home when a speeding bus hit us. Things could have been much worse but I was only left with bruises and fractures that required me to rest for a month. We may be called home anytime but I’m grateful that I was given more time for things I ought to try. 
With the help of my parents, we managed to put up a new Montessori. Mama established one in 1984 but it was her passion project with her siblings. This time, we had no one to rely on but ourselves. I came from a different field but I had to learn things while healing from my injuries. Running a school, liaising with people in the field, and dealing with parents sometimes take their toll on me, but what keeps me going is seeing the cheery smiles of our kids.

While on “bedcation,”  the election-related mudslinging and demolition jobs towards politicians that I see on my social media feed everyday prompted me to finish a paper. I nearly lost my drive to complete the paper but He spoke to me through Isaiah 26:3. I sent the paper to an international panel and a month later, I was informed that it was accepted to a Journalism and Mass Communications conference.
In October, I went to Singapore to present the paper. I was the only one from my country, the only one who had no “Dr.” in her name, and the only one armed with a champagne pink business card (remember a scene from Legally Blonde?). I was intimidated at first but it was great to come home with insights from brilliant people.

I gathered the courage as well to try Halloween Horror Nights. I’ve been visiting Singapore every year since 2014 for vacation but that night, I tried HHN and completed 4/5 scare zones.  For those who will visit next year, remember that the key is to pretend you’re not terrified and to compliment the performers for them to not prey on you. “You have beautiful skin,” I told this White Lady and she left me. It worked!
Many from my generation grew up loving J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe. Regardless of how old you are, the magic never really goes away for Potterheads. Thirteen years after I first came across the novels, I was granted the opportunity to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
We spent a total of 10 days in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo. I loved that trip because it was a DIY one. Japan’s charm made the weeks spent planning worthwhile.
As a way to thank Him for His goodness and protection,  I decided to spend my birthday in Mindoro.  While the previous ones were bigger and fancier, this celebration left the deepest mark on me. It was simple yet the Mangyans’ shy smiles emanated sincerity and appreciation. That day wouldn’t be possible without the help of my thoughtful friends. My former colleagues shared bath soaps while three great people travelled with me to Mindoro and pulled an all-nighter to prepare food and pack our gifts.
After sharing photos of their humble community, I have received messages from people wanting to extend help. We’re planning to come back this summer to give something that lasts like a library.  

We spent the last few days of December in Seoul where I got proposed to.
I felt guilty that I would go to Seoul and miss Aujen’s birthday. I then asked a friend to bake a cake for him which I intend to deliver to his friend who would surprise him. On the day of my flight, I pursued my plan, but it rained. I left Cavite early but the rain left my calculations futile. I managed to deliver the cake but there was no way I would make it on time for my flight.

I was on the verge of crying inside the cab because all the bookings were under my name (there were 8 of us) and I was the only one who knew the itinerary by heart. I thought of my Mama who was so excited to spend winter in Seoul only for me to ruin the plan.

With 20 minutes left before the check-in counter’s closing, I decided to go down the cab and ask help from motorcycle drivers. A girl in the middle of a flyover surrounded with vehicles contending with traffic gridlock helplessly flailing her arms above her head – yes, that was me.

I was downright rejected by the first two drivers for their lack of spare helmets. The third guy was luckily on his way to the airport for work although his duty wouldn’t start in two hours. The counter would close at 2:15 p.m. but because of that man who showed compassion, I arrived at 2:02 p.m.

Unbeknownst to me, Aujen and his mother would fly to Seoul a day after our flight. Kung alam ko lang, sana dinala ko na lang yung cake sa Seoul. Haha. He followed us to Nami Island where he got down on his knee. In my disbelief, I ran away and slipped on the snow-covered pavement. Nonetheless, it was the perfect way to end our winter sojourn. He could have given me a ring made of twine but he still would have gotten the same answer from me. 
Other highlights include delivering a talk about “Cultivating Poise in the Workplace” to the employees of Office Warehouse (I still think I am not fit for that talk because I rarely last a day without tripping or dropping things) and being interviewed by a talented group of Journalism students from De La Salle University for their campus magazine.
Seeing my life flash before my eyes taught me a lot about redefining my purpose. The battles that we still have to fight might leave us feeling hopeless at times, but when this happens, think of the magnitude of blessings that awaits you. 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan – Worth All the Gold in Gringott’s!

November 7, 2016

Thirteen years ago, I first came across the tale of The Boy Who Lived. Every Sunday, we used to go to the bookstore and there I saw this little unassuming book. Seven installments later, like all Potterheads, I still find myself enamored of the world J.K. Rowling has conjured.  I’m now in my twenties but I still feel thrilled over new releases, theories, and Buzzfeed articles.
OA na kung OA but when we went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan, it felt like coming home. Akala mo talaga I was once a Hogwarts student noh? Haha. What they say about USJ is true, it’s crowded! Nonetheless, we made the most out of that trip because of several “strategies.”

Arrive way before the park’s operation hours
We went there on October 31 and according to the website, the park was supposed to open at 8 a.m. We arrived 40 minutes earlier and much to our delight, gates were already opened! I’m not sure why but perhaps because it was Halloween that day. Since there’s no crowd yet, we were able to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter without timed tickets and enjoy an unobstructed view of Hogsmeade.

Take note that USJ issues timed tickets to control the crowd. They say that these tickets run out sometimes leaving others with no chance to enter (nightmare!). Upon arriving at USJ, check first if you can enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter without the ticket. If you can’t, RUN to the other side of the park to secure a time slot. If you can’t stay in hotels right outside USJ, book flats that are near the park. Ours was located in Namba which was half an hour away from the park.

Go straight to Forbidden Journey
Once you set foot in Harry’s world, it’s tough not to stop and take photos. “Shocks, Honeydukes! Wow, Ollivander’s! Wait, Hogwarts Express!” This was me when we entered. It’s normal to be over the moon because the things you have read may now be touched BUT you’ll be thankful later for controlling yourself.
Upon entering, we went straight to Hogwarts Castle and lined up for the famous Forbidden Journey attraction while everyone was busy having their photos taken outside. In less than 20 minutes, we were done and that’s when we started to explore the shops. 

At 10 a.m., the waiting time for Forbidden Journey was already 180 minutes! There’s another ride, Flight of the Hippogriff, but we skipped it for it used to be a kiddie rollercoaster which was only rebranded.

Consider alternatives if queues for Butterbeer and Potter merchandise are snakelike
A Hogsmeade trip isn’t complete without tasting Butterbeer, but you don’t have to spend an hour in front of the red carriage waiting for your cup. Hog’s Head also offers Butterbeer sans the queue. 

The Universal Studios store outside likewise sells Harry Potter merchandise. The store even sells pastries and chocolates in tin cans which I didn’t see at Honeydukes. The only downside from buying outside is that the plastic bag will be the generic Universal Studios one instead of the one depicting Harry on a broomstick.

Don’t miss the shows
Part of the charm is meeting “actual” Hogwarts students. The Tri-Wizard Competition also features students from Beauxbaton and Durmstrang. When you enter USJ, there’s a slip containing the show times. At the end of the show, guests are allowed to have their photos taken with the cast members. Since it’s Halloween, we got to meet Death Eaters too.

Make sure to return at night
We left The Wizarding World at noontime to enjoy the attractions outside. We came back at 5 p.m. but they were already issuing timed tickets. Our timed passes were then scheduled at 6:30 p.m. If you plan to visit at night, it’s best to drop by early to know if you can enter freely or if you need to secure passes. I recommend returning at night because Hogwarts Castle is spectacular!
To those whose hearts have been broken when they were deprived of that majestic acceptance letter (#muggleproblems), you could still live out your dream at The Wizarding World. I assure you, this trip is worth all the gold in Gringotts!

Souvenir Guide: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

Theme parks, they say, are tourist traps with their skyrocketing costs of food and souvenirs. Despite this truth, I still love taking home something that will remind me of how happy I was that day. Needless to say, I don’t mind being trapped! 
If you’re heading to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan, here are some of the gifts which you may take home.

One of the most practical souvenirs! You get to taste Butterbeer and take home the cup.

Keychains start at 800 yen while mobile charms are priced at 600 yen up.

Robes are one of the park’s priciest souvenirs at 14,000 yen. Scarves are a little over 5,000 yen. Add-ons like gloves, bonnets, and pins are sold separately.

How will you practice spells if you don’t have a wand? Ollivander’s sells all wands of the major characters (even the wands of the ones we loathe, hello Voldermort and Bellatrix?).

Pillows at 3,800 yen

Fancy ceramics which I didn’t buy because it would be challenging to take them home.

Notebooks that start at 1,200 yen

Fred and George’s iconic creations

Edibles – I don’t have a clear photo of the Chocolate Frog but it was the most popular sweet at 1,200 yen.

You can’t buy Dobby masks inside the park but I’m posting this here to remind myself that I should find one when I return. They’re adorable, diba?

You may likewise read my Wizarding World of Harry Potter experience here.

A Shy Girl’s Guide to Surviving Parties

April 5, 2016

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: parties horrify me. Introverts are social people too, but only for a limited time. Since they find happiness in spending time alone or with a group of people they’ve known for years, continuous social events deplete their metaphorical batteries.

I am often asked by my mom and our helper, “How can you manage to stay at home for a long time?” This question baffles me. I commonly respond, “But how can you guys go out every single day?” Social gatherings are inevitable and here’s how you can survive parties without abhorring them.

Assume a role at the party
I like helping out whenever a friend throws a party. Having a sense of purpose not only distracts you, but also helps you get acclimated to the party. You can help set the table, distribute the tokens, or my go-to task – take photos of the event.

Be present in your own introverted style
If you’re more of an introvert, it’s likely that you’re great in listening and asking insightful questions. Instead of dreading the things you might say, just be attentive. Keep in mind that one of the great gifts you can offer someone is to hear them out.

Have a pre-party ritual
Take some time for yourself before heading out for a day of socializing. Prior to attending something, I feel anxious to the point of regretting why I agreed to go. This is where pre-party calming techniques come in. Read a book, watch an episode of your favorite series, take a long bath, or do whatever it is that soothes your already panicking thoughts. 

Consider bringing an extrovert wingman
If it’s an affair that allows you to bring guests, you may walk in with a wingman. Small talk can be a torture for introverts, but if you are accompanied by someone who can break the ice and who can fill up “dead air,” then there’s nothing to worry.

Be clad in something you’re comfortable in
Socializing is already tough for you. Don’t make it more complicated by wearing a short flimsy dress that you always have to pull down or a pair of unstable heels that can leave you crippled anytime. This reminds me that I better start looking for a party-ready cocktail dress for a night out with my girls! I rarely party at night, that’s why my friends know that when I ask them for a night out, it’s something serious. Haha. As introverts, it should be our goal to walk into a party feeling as charged and as confident as possible.

Give yourself time to recharge
If you have to leave the party early so that you may unwind, do so. Don’t feel guilty about it. It’s better to leave early than to fake your enjoyment when you’re already feeling overwhelmed by the festivity. You can also go to washroom quickly or head outside for some fresh air.

Parties can be daunting but take a deep breath and get out there from time to time. If you have more party tips for shy people, I would love to hear them. :) 

A Breakup Survival Kit for a Friend

March 26, 2016

Going through a breakup is difficult. This isn’t exactly news but it’s true. When a friend called me about her situation, I was close to crying too. It’s tougher when you believe that friend is undeserving of being treated in such manner.

While time will eventually heal wounds, surely it doesn’t hurt to support your friend on her path to personal recovery. Hearing out your friend is a nice thing, but throwing some care package into the mix is a thoughtful gesture. Here are the contents of my simple breakup survival kit:

A movie that falls under the rom-com or tearjerker category
I apologized to my friend for sending Atonement. Haha! It’s a stressful flick and I know I could’ve sent something funny like The House Bunny or She’s Out of My League. You can also include a series that will allow your friend to go on a marathon and stop thinking of He-Who-We-Shouldn’t-Talk-About.

A comfortable sweater
There are days when you don’t want to get out of the bed, and that’s okay. For that ultimate “bedcation,” why not have your friend wear something comfortable? Apart from oversized sweaters, you can try socks and jammies with quirky prints.

There is nothing chocolates cannot cure, I hope. I added some Gummy bears to let her know that life’s unBEARable (I know, it’s cheesy) without the cheerful A that we all know.

A journal
Heartbreak brings out the artist in us. How else can you explain the heap of hugots that we read or hear daily? Give your friend a pocket-sized journal for her to write down things she wanted to say to He-Who-We-Shouldn’t-Talk-About. Who knows? The material she came up with may be worthy of a merit normally reserved for Adele.

A cucumber product
The cucumber face mask is for days when she wants to hide all the puffiness (from crying).

Be as creative as you can when putting together a breakup survival kit for a friend. Don’t forget to include an uplifting letter. Think of the things that you wanted to hear when you were going through the same thing. Here are other things that you can include in a breakup survival kit for a friend:

February Favorites

March 5, 2016

Chanel Bonheur #61
I typically stick with pink shades when it comes to lipsticks but this one is gorgeous! While it has shimmers, the lipstick doesn’t look that shiny when applied. The minimal shine eventually wears off leaving the lips with a lasting berry stain. Since it is a part of Chanel’s Hydrating Sheer Lipshine collection, the lipstick’s finish is translucent.

Goody Ouchless Finishing Brush
This is probably my Holy Grail brush. I sometimes find it tiring to comb my lengthy locks right after showering but I’m thankful for the soft bristles of this brush. The bristles paired with the comfort gel handle (something my dog would surely sink his teeth into given the opportunity) will give you a “snag-free” styling experience.

Paper Designer
What is it with journals and paper items that we find endearing? I can’t stop buying even if the notebooks that I currently have would last me for years. This Paper Designer from Boho Box has 40 dainty papers inside. The store has other lovely stuff too like owl bracelets and boho purses – all below P200.

One Direction “Our Moment” perfume
This is the debut perfume of One Direction, the best band ever together with Coldplay. It’s a floral scent infused with slightly fruity notes. The longevity is also great – about 6 hours. The bottle is whimsical but apparently aimed at a younger demographic of fans.

Missha Honey Butter Pack
This butter pack is part of my Myeongdong haul last year. I’m now on my second tube and it works well if you’re skin is in need of a moisture boost. Like most face packs, you leave this on your face for 15 minutes and wash it off with lukewarm water.  The face pack has Korean acacia honey and French gourmet butter that claim to help in promoting a radiant complexion.

Kasalang Tagaytay 2016: Where Suppliers from the South Own the Spotlight

February 29, 2016

Given the soaring fame of Tagaytay when it comes to weddings, it’s a delight to see an affair like Kasalang Tagaytay that puts the spotlight on wedding suppliers from the South. The event was wonderful! Apart from the booths' charming decors, the suppliers were pleasant. We previously went to a bridal fair in Rockwell and this one was just as intimate. 

Kasalang Tagaytay 2016 took place at SMDC Wind Residences. Outside the function hall are chairs and tables where couples can discuss before they re-enter and secure deals with their chosen suppliers.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed during bridal fairs with dozens of vendors handing you things and reciting their sales pitch, that’s why it’s great to have location-centric events like Kasalang Tagaytay 2016. The deals are great as well (e.g. Booking this particular music band for your reception entitles you to FREE 70 pieces of wedding favors from the neighboring booth).

 The affair was made possible by event expert Anna Liza Sotto in partnership with Town’s Delight. If you want to tie the knot in Tagaytay but wasn’t able to attend the fair, you may download the PhilWeddings app.

Once I get the time to go through this bag, I’ll make a compilation. That’s a promise!